So far, we’ve talked about the proper starting point for making sense of the world we live in—namely, God and his goodness (Day 1). And we’ve also talked about where evil comes from; namely, that it comes riding into our world on the back of sin—that it is an intruder, an invader (Day 2). Both of those truths are important. Now let’s expand the playing field a bit by asking the central question of this study, “Where is God when it hurts?”
Many people believe that good and evil are co-equal, dueling forces in our world. Think about a very popular and ancient Chinese symbol: the yin-yang. The symbol gives expression to a view of the world held not just by the Chinese but by many people, both ancient and modern. The idea is that good and evil, light and dark, are simultaneously opposing yet complementary forces that give rise to one another as they jostle back and forth in a kind of ongoing, creative tension. This view is expressed to brilliant effect in George Lucas’s epic cinematic series, Star Wars, where “The Force” is the total yin-yang circle in which the light and the dark grapple.
The view is not without merit. It helps explain the “jostling” we feel in our world (even inside ourselves at times!). It also can help us come to a place of tranquility and peace about the jostling, the never-ending back and forth of good and evil. This is just the way life is. Better get used to it.
From a biblical point of view, however, there are problems. In the biblical mind, good and evil are precisely not co-equal. Evil is a falling-away from what is good. It is, by that very definition, less than good. The second problem is that such a philosophy makes evil a permanent fixture of our world. As we will learn later in this study, that is refuted on every page of the biblical witness. One day, evil will be no more.
But there’s a third problem. In the yin-yang, wherever the darkness is, the light is not; and wherever the light is, the darkness is not. They are competing for the same territory. It is, we might say, “a zero-sum game.”
Look back at the reading for today. The Psalmist begins by acknowledging how intimately the Lord knows him (vv. 1-6). And what a comfort that is! But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to confess that the Lord who knows him is also present to him—for God, in the Psalmist’s mind, is present everywhere (vv. 7-18). No matter how far he runs from God, God will be there (vv. 9-10). Even if he makes his bed “in the depths,” in the very place of the dead, God will be there too (v. 8). The confession evokes astonishment, and praise (v. 14). There is nowhere to run from God. And, thankfully, no need to run, for God is good.
God is not one element or another in the yin-yang of our world. He is the very possibility of either yin or yang, so that no matter where we are or what we are experiencing, we can take courage in the fact that God is there, willing and working our final good. Christians are people who believe this, whose faith gives them eyes to see God, even when surrounded by darkness.